The history of the Little Falls Fire Department spans over 200 years. In this chapter, the era of the paid department begins.

Unless otherwise noted, all pictures are from the Little Falls Historical Society’s Cooney Books.

This is a picture of the first paid members of the Little Falls Fire Department. The firefighters are standing in the doorway, while some city officials are on the brand new hose cart. The picture was taken on May 30, 1899 in front of the firehouse of the Victor Adams Hose Company, which stood where the Adirondack Bank Drive Thru is today. Ironically, the Victor Adams Hose Company was one of the volunteer companies that was vehemently opposed to the paid department.

This is a picture of the first paid members of the Little Falls Fire Department. The firefighters are standing in the doorway while some city officials are on the brand-new hose cart. The picture was taken on May 30, 1899, in front of the firehouse of the Victor Adams Hose Company, which stood where the Adirondack Bank Drive Thru is today. Ironically, the Victor Adams Hose Company was one of the volunteer companies that was vehemently opposed to the paid department.

As the sun rose over Little Falls on the morning of June 1, 1899, it was not only a new day but the start of a new era. At midnight, the Little Falls Fire Department became a paid department. The first headquarters for the paid department was a livery stable at the Star Academy, located at today’s City Hall. Despite being called an “academy,” the Star Academy was actually a ballroom with lodging quarters.

The Star Academy. The entrance is where the entrance of City Hall is today.

The Star Academy. The entrance is where the entrance of City Hall is today.

Originally, the paid department comprised four full-time firefighters, callmen, and volunteers. The first full-time firefighters in Little Falls’ history were Allie Wood, George W. Andrews, John F. Herbert, and William J. Smith. The callmen were paid by the call, and supplementing the full-time and call firefighters were 90 volunteer firefighters. The volunteers came from the Erina Chemical Engine Company, which it appeared had merged with the Charles King Hose Company after the paid department took over.

The original callmen were disbanded shortly after the paid department was formed. Most of the callmen were also volunteers in the Erina Chemical Engine Company, so the city deemed that since the Chemicals already received an annual stipend of $600, the volunteers could not be paid as callmen. The remaining callmen who were not members of the Chemical Engine Company were members of the Exempt Firemen Association (which will be discussed in a future chapter). They were told by that organization to either quit the Exempts or quit the fire department. Those men chose the latter.

Edward Cooney, who would serve as chief of the department for 47 years, described the early days of the paid force in a writing later in his life.

“Members of the fire dept. June 5th, 1900: E.J. Cooney Chief, Allie Wood, Fred Ingraham, Geo. W. Smith was appointed but did not accept the job. Smith bunked at headquarters until June 14, 1901 at $15 per month for a year and a half. His place was not filled, with the assistance of volunteers and bunkers we got along with the three firemen. Prior to June 1900, the department consisted of John Herbert, William J. Smith, called Little Bill as William B. Smith, an extra man was called Big Bill Smith, Allie Wood, and Geo (George) Andrews made the four regulars from the paid department origination June 1, 1899 to June 1, 1900. The call men of the department from June 1, 1899 were: Maynard Sanders, Dennis Hooley, Jas (James) Fox, W.B. Smith, Chas (Charles) Safford, John Somers, Tom Foley, Jess Thompson, William B. Johnson (and) also the Chemical Engine Co. number 5. The Chemical Co. agreed to furnish 10 men at all fires, each month the company would draw 10 men to respond. Some were active, others were not. July 1, 1902 the Chemical Co. withdrew from the dep’t and call men were placed on with regular pay of $40.00 per year.”

Edward Cooney, Chief of the LFFD

Allie Wood, one of the original paid firefighters of the LFFD.

Allie Wood, one of the original paid firefighters of the LFFD.

By 1900, change was everywhere. The transformation from an agrarian to a mercantile society that the Erie Canal started was completed by the railroads that were now dominant. The United States had just come out of the Spanish-American War and, with its decisive victory, established itself as a world power. The “manifest destiny” that was a popular sentiment in the 1800’s was just about now complete.

Little Falls was reaching new heights as well. Having incorporated as a city on May 8, 1895, Little Falls now boasted a population of over 10,000. This was helped by a wave of immigration that saw many Irish, Italians, Slovaks, Polish, and Slovenians settle in Little Falls – mostly on the South Side. The South Side is also where the firehouse of the old General Herkimer Company was located (today’s Benton Landing). It had now become known as the South Side Hose House.

While the South Side Hose House was a building that was a holdover from the volunteer days, on January 1, 1900, the paid department moved into their brand new station on the southwest corner of Albany and Second Streets. This was on the same site as the Protection Engine Company’s station that burned down in 1877. A new firehouse was built on this site shortly after that fire, but that station was torn down in the latter part of 1899 to make way for the new one. This new headquarters would house the Police Department as well.

The city would not own this building. Instead, they rented it from a Mr. Sadler for $725 per year, with a lawyer named Hadley Jones negotiating the deal. Jones would become the Mayor of Little Falls in 1900, but his tenure didn’t even last one year. Jones fled Little Falls after it was discovered he had forged stock certificates from a local bank and was never heard from again. For more on the Hadley Jones story, click on this link (https://littlefallshistoricalsociety.org/writing-series/mayor-hadley-jones-a-saint-or-a-sinner-part-1-by-louis-baum/) for a great article on the topic by Louis Baum of the Little Falls Historical Society.

This is the station used by the LFFD and LFPD from 1900 to 1918. It was located on the southwest corner of Albany and Second Streets on the current site of Kinney's parking lot (the bay doors open to Albany Street). Next to the station is the original Cherry-Burrell plant.

This is the station used by the LFFD and LFPD from 1900 to 1918. It was located on the southwest corner of Albany and Second Streets on the current site of Kinney’s parking lot (the bay doors open to Albany Street). Next to the station is the original Cherry-Burrell plant.

This new station would be manned 24 hours a day and seven days a week. The South Side Hose House was originally manned by only a city teamster. A teamster was not a fireman but a man who drove a team of horses that pulled a hose cart to fires. The South Side Hose Cart and the firehouse of the former Charles King Hose Company on Loomis Street would house hose carts, but Loomis Street would never be manned.

UP NEXT: A Little Falls legend takes over as chief, and the new department, the former volunteers fight back, and the first big fires for the paid department.

The Call Firefighters as of July 1, 1902:

Badge #NameAgeAddress
3R.L. WalrathN/AAnn St.
5S.M. VanAllen21320 Ann St.
6C. Sullivan2468 Alexander
7Alvin Peeler3047 German
8Jere Lynch30197 Burwell
9John C. Cunningham25564 Albany
10Eugene Rankin317 Jefferson
11E.E. Joslyn3951 Ward
12Warren Walrath21108 Burwell
14C.D. Crowley26777 East Main
15Thomas P. Kennealy26357 West Main
16Geo W. Cogavan3742 West Monroe
18John D. Dudon348 Church